Jazz Is: Guitarist Elden Kelly and The Outrospectives play “Dancing Light: Music of Gregg Hill” at Blue LLama
In college, I had a professor who used to enjoy asking the students in jazz history class to define jazz. He would say, “What is jazz?” and then sit back and listen to us try to answer this seemingly basic question. We know it when we hear it, but since we can’t quite put our fingers on what makes something “jazz,” we use other words like bebop, post-bop, modern, avant-garde, free, and fusion to help us out. Usually, I deplore circular reasoning, but when it comes to impossible questions, sometimes the answer is in the question itself. Jazz is what jazz musicians do. What’s a jazz musician? A person who plays jazz is a jazz musician. What’s jazz again?
On May 9 I attended the CD release show for The Outrospectives' new record, Dancing Light: Music of Gregg Hill, at Ann Arbor’s Blue LLama Jazz Club. Guitarist Elden Kelly assembled this band to play compositions by Gregg Hill. Elden arranged the music for a specific quintet of gifted musicians, and he worked with Hill to transcribe the music over the course of the past six years. What made this concert exciting were the ways in which this group and the music it played were both firmly rooted in jazz traditions, while simultaneously breaking new ground and bringing in non-jazz elements (or at least elements that are not traditionally associated with jazz).
The group itself is almost a traditional quintet, but with some caveats.
Some things are designed for specific uses only, while other items could serve a variety of functions. Examples might be socks versus a blanket, or a planner versus blank paper. In the realm of food, a butter dish serves a singular purpose among other tableware. This quality makes butter dishes less common, said Margaret Carney, director of the International Museum of Dinnerware Design in Ann Arbor.
The question then becomes, “What would you want to have your butter in?” according to Carney.
The exhibit Butter provides more than 80 answers to this question in the form of invited, juried, and museum pieces all designed to hold butter or related to butter in some way. The show is a pop-up exhibition curated by the International Museum of Dinnerware Design and on view at the Museum on Main Street, which is owned by the Washtenaw County Historical Society, through a partnership between the museums. Butter is available to visit from April 6 to August 25, 2019, on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. and weekdays by appointment. Admission is free.
Carney will give a presentation related to the exhibit, called “Butter Extravaganza,” Sunday, May 12, from 3-5 pm at the Traverwood Branch of the Ann Arbor District Library.
Despite butter’s ubiquity as a condiment, ingredient, flavoring, and cooking medium, the way in which it is dished up might not always have much ceremony around it. Plastic tubs of butter from the grocery store can be easily shuttled between the refrigerator and table without needing a dish. Restaurants often supply little wax-wrapped or tiny plastic containers alongside bread. Yet, butter dishes, often lidded, can be part of a set of dishes or standalone pieces.
Where Many Rivers Meet: Debashish Bhattacharya explored Indian classical music on Hawaiian lap-steel guitar at the jazz club Blue LLama
Indian classical music is not jazz, but both traditions have some commonalities, particularly improvisation, which is a critical and highly developed skill in both genres. Those commonalities -- and tons of skill -- were on display May 2 during Debashish Bhattacharya's performance at the new Blue LLama jazz club in Ann Arbor.
Indian classical music and jazz traditions are often transmitted orally. Musicians are held to a high standard of excellence. There is a tension between tradition and innovation that helps to ground the music without causing it to sound stale and boring. And in the case of Bhattacharya, who has brought the Hawaiian lap steel into the world of Indian classical music, there is a willingness to explore music beyond the traditional boundaries of style or genre.
I took my seat at the back of the club about 20 minutes before show time. My server brought me a small, single-bite portion of palak chaat, a salad of crispy spinach, yogurt, and curry created by Chef Louis that had been inspired by the evening's music. Blue LLama is very serious about its mission of combining “the love of food with the love of music” (and why there are two capital LLs in the club's name). The food is delicious and the venue has been designed from the ground up for incredible sound and vibe. It's definitely the classiest place in town to see live music.
A round-up of arts and culture stories featuring people, places, and things in Washtenaw County, whether they're just passing through or Townies for life. Coverage includes music, visual art, film & video, theater & dance, written word, and Pulp life (food, fairs, and more). Sources this time are:
➥ All About Ann Arbor
➥ Ann Arbor Observer
➥ CTN Ann Arbor
➥ Detroit Free Press
➥ Detroit Metro Times
➥ Detroit News
➥ Encore Michigan
➥ Life in Michigan
➥ Lifting Up A2 Jazz
➥ The Michigan Daily
➥ The Saline Post
➥ WCBN Local Music Show
➥ We Love Ann Arbor
Bloodstained Economics: "Wang Qingsong / Detroit / Beijing" at UMMA explores class conflict in China and the U.S.
Wang Qingsong is interested in the effects of “rapid change in contemporary Chinese society.” He also sees a parallel in U.S. society, especially when it comes to the discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots, which is made clear in Wang Qingsong/Detroit/Beijing, his new exhibit at the University of Michigan Museum of Art,
Wang Qingsong restages the large-scale drawing The Bloodstained Shirt (1959) by Wang Shikuo, an iconic work of Socialist Realist art and one that celebrates land reforms in China after Communist victory in 1949. The original drawing depicts the peasant uprising against their cruel landlord and the subsequent reclaiming of the land.
In Wang Qingsong/Detroit/Beijing, Wang Shikuo's drawing forms the basis for a photo reenactment, shot in front of an abandoned Sanders candy factory in Highland Park, a city in Detroit. Wang Qingsong’s February 2018 restaging in Detroit raises questions about land use in the city while simultaneously commenting on current issues in China, which UMMA's curators note have shifted dramatically since the idealistic Wang Shikuo image was made. The curators also write that the artist originally intended to work in Beijing, where land redistribution suffers in favor of real estate developers’ interests.
Similarly, Wang Qingsong noticed that Southeast Michigan is driven by “private speculation on and the rebuilding of abandoned properties in Detroit and Highland Park that ignore the needs of most residents.” UMMA curators also note that the re-enacted The Bloodstained Shirt (2018) was intended by the artist to be shown both in China and the United States, but it is banned in China.
Across the Campus-verse: U-M's "Bookmarks: Speculating the Futures of the Book and Library" exhibit takes viewers on a trip
Many of the installations are true “pop-up” style, with the spaces being utilized by busy students. The exhibition, curated by Guna Nadarajan, dean of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, includes work by University students, faculty, and staff. The work can be viewed in three places: Hatcher Graduate Library, Art, Architecture & Engineering Library, and Shapiro Undergraduate Library.
The Bookmarks exhibition addresses two questions. First, many works engage with the shift from printed books to digital formats, the displacement of the book as a form, and shifting functions and perceptions of functions of the library. Second, artists question what these shifts in form mean for the institutions housing information. The exhibition asks: “What is the future of the library? What is the future of the book?” Each performance piece, artwork, or installation comment on speculative futures for books, libraries, or shifting technologies in unique ways.
In all, there are 14 site-specific installations and exhibits. Two of these require a cell phone or electronic device in order to experience the entire work.
Below, each work is listed under the library it is shown in, with specific instructions to find it.
Northern Virginia rapper Joey Blanco been called a modern Big Pun or Noreaga because of his suave vocal style and Latin heritage.
And when asked about his influences, Blanco admits that Pun, along with Jay-Z, Big L, Nas, and Biggie, is one of his favorites.
But Blanco has his own cadence and tone, marked by assertive vocals rapping English lyrics peppered with colorful Spanish ad-libs.
"I think it’s doing great," Blanco said of Latino hip-hop, "I just feel as though there’s no artists that perform in English and that are killing it with the Spanish ad-libs. I feel like I’m bringing that to the game. I’m just trying to bring something new to the Spanish culture."
Walking in a place can be a way to become more intimately connected to it. That is just what author Leslie Carol Roberts does at the Presidio National Park in San Francisco, California, where she lives. She wrote about these walks and places, including the Presidio, in her new nonfiction book, Here Is Where I Walk: Episodes From a Life in the Forest.
“For what is a walk in the forest if not a chance to fully and deeply celebrate the sauntering and reflective mind?” she asks in the introduction.
Through her walks and the months of the year, which structure the book, she reflects on ecology, experiences from her life, and stories and research on places, including California, Iowa, Maryland, and Tasmania. Through these reflections, she contemplates what nature and wild places are and what humans’ relationship with them is.
Formerly of Michigan, Roberts has covered news around the world as a journalist. She earned her MFA at the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program and teaches and chairs the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts. Her first book, The Entire Earth and Sky: Views on Antarctica, discusses Antarctica and New Zealand.
Roberts will read at Literati Bookstore Monday, May 6, at 7 pm and at Source Booksellers in Detroit on Wednesday, May 8. Here, she shares about her experiences in Michigan, her new book, and her own reading.
I went to the Martha Graham Dance Company's April 26 performance at the Power Center and was blown away. (The troupe also performed April 27.)
I’ve seen the Martha Graham Dance Company (MGDC) on several occasions before, as well as many of the endless companies the group's namesake has inspired, but never before have I loved them so much. The dancers performed four pieces: Secular Games (Martha Graham), Deo (Maxine Doyle & Bobbi Jene Smith), Lamentation Variations (Aszure Barton/Nicolas Paul/Larry Keigwin), and Chronicle (Graham). Each piece was emotional, wholly different, and an example of ferocious physical ability.
MGDC is in its 93rd season, which makes it the oldest dance company in the United States; they first appeared in Ann Arbor in 1932. Watching on Friday night, I was struck by how fresh Graham's choreography feels, even almost a century later. Graham is credited with the creation of a new American art form in modern dance. Her movements use sharp angles and the pull of gravity, both of which set her apart from ballet. Her work is also unbelievably difficult. There are moments in her choreography where I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: for example, one dancer did a series of split leaps into the air from a standing position across the length of the entire stage. Even the onstage pauses in movement, which are usually put into a piece to give the audience a moment of stillness and the dancers a moment to breathe, are angular and uncomfortable.
There is no rest for a Martha Graham dancer.
Keep Talking: Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to President Obama, expressed optimism at The Michigan Theater
If I had been paying as much attention to national politics in 2009 as I do now, maybe I would have been more familiar with Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama. But her visit to the Michigan Theater on Monday, April 22, gave me the chance to learn more about her story.
I am so glad that I took that chance.
“You never know what can happen with a Michigan Law degree.” --Broderick Johnson
As part of her book took for Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward, Jarrett was in conversation with Broderick Johnson, an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan Law School. Maybe Johnson and Jarrett appeared to be so comfortable on stage because of their work together as advisors in the Obama administration. Maybe it was because their friendship was palpable. Maybe it was because they’re both University of Michigan Law School alumni and this felt like a homecoming of sorts. In any case, it was a pleasure to behold.